Saturday, May 4, 2019

Place Saint Michel & Baudelaire

This is a very personal poem, dedicated as it is to my son Liam who has lived in France all his life. I worry about him a lot, these day, due to the protests going on in Paris. I don't get to see him as often as I should, we last met in February last year when I was presenting a paper on the significance of the invocation in Comment c'est/How It Is.

I first went to Paris in 1989, living on the outskirts of Versailles for some years. I used to love taking the train into the city center and walking along the banks of the Seine, on the weekends. Stopping off at the bouquinistes, looking at the books, before grabbing a beer or a wine in one of the old cafes. Parisian life on the left bank.

When we went over in November, 2017, to launch The Dublin Trilogy as a homage to Baudelaire ( it was the 150th anniversary of his death) we stayed in a beautiful old hotel just five minutes from Notre Dame and Place Saint Michel. All the old ghosts came back to haunt me. I was really hit by profound feeling of time passing. This new poem taps into all of that, and my reading of Dante and Baudelaire, two sides of the same coin.

A toi fiston!

Place Saint Michel & Baudelaire

For Liam

Place Saint Michel, exiting from the Metro
Station, head perfectly aligned with street level,
The whoosh of air shunting up, intensity of
Movement from humans and their machines.

As you step up onto the street, like a priest upon an
Altar, or a passenger boarding a transport to some
Foreign destination, transcending the past, and a
Smokeless Notre Dame, without hunchback

But garlanded instead with saints, angels and gargoyle,
Towering above you, and the Seine, and all the goblets
Of Jupiters toasting in Le Depart, all manner of
Phenomenon vying for your eye, till you turn to face

The fountain, and it hits you - the Haussemannian
Edifice sublime! Its demonic aspect, once again
Startling you. This is France, not Ireland, so the
Christian motif is inspired, by Baudelaire.

This then the Satanic tributary where the source
Of evil flows… BOREDOM. The great Dantesque
Symbol of Satan, vanquished at Michel’s feet, the
Residual feature of an acute medievalism, which

On first sight might appear antiquated. This then
The great deception. For, nothing could be further
From the truth. So, what are the modern ingredients
To furnish the monster? What could possibly further

Stoke the apparition to conjure him rudely to our
21st century, I almost wrote sensibility!... I’m clearly
At a loss as to what to say… However, move on!
Systematic annihilation, or better yet, as the Romans

Called it, decimation. In that it is a form of daily
Destruction, so finely attuned as to be a sign of an
Acute precision. “Why the forty hour week!”, Monsieur
Replies. “Cest ca, l’horreur!”   To borrow a culinary

Term, complete reduction! When played out over an
Entire life, 50 or so years, three hundred and thirty- odd
Days a year, taken away to be consigned to toil,
In the banality of the quotidian, starting with the

Commute, be it on plane, bus, car or on a train.
Body odours, or deodorant, and undesired for
Monologues on mobile phones assail you in
Succession, all with the hellish vision of  1000

Idiots before you scrolling on their iPhones, all
Being continuously surveyed, each conversation,
Text, post, or prattle. No escape from the Leviathan,
Which amasses now in the shape of  Satan.

“Papa Satàn, Papa Satàn aleppe!” This then the
Shape of the ravenous beast that Saint Michael
Seeks to ward off, destroy, attired as he is in
Breast plate, brandishing the sword, finger in

The air! The 19th century symbolism redolent,
And hitting you like an aural shock. Unbalancing
You. So, that you step out onto the street, while
Catching your breath, getting your bearings as

You slightly falter; such is middle-age.
And walking down the boulevard of your youth,
Crossing over once again into the labyrinth,
In the footsteps of Dedalus. Mon semblabe, mon frere. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Translation from a poem by Christophe Bregaint

One of the pleasures of returning to Facebook is discovering new writings by fellow writers, if you friend writers you will become privy to a storehouse of both published and unpublished material, unpublished in the traditional sense that is. The trick is, of course, to only friend good writers, or at least writers whose writing you actually like.

One such writer for me is the Parisian poet Christophe Bregaint. I have been familiar with Christoph's poetry now for some time. I have published some translations and some transversions of his work. I am rather fortunate as Christophe actually seems to like reading my renderings of his poetry into the 'language of Shakespeare', as he once said to me. He is a wonderful poet, following like many young French poets in the path of such classic 19th century French poets, such as Baudelaire, Malarme, Rimbaud and Verlaine.

Of course translating contemporary French writers like Christophe is also a way of keeping engaged with the French language, I lived for some years in Paris when I was, ahem, a young/er man. I am incredibly lucky, I sometimes feel, to have this natural resource. As it allows me a second way, or medium, of looking at the world. Oscillating back and forth between the two, English and French, then offers you a possible third way, coming in the form of the transversion/ translation.

Towards the exhausted banks
There are these roads which tumefy
So that faces turn green
In time
Little inclined to return to the memories
Of furrows of consumed horizons
Approaching the coast which breaks the banks
The sea swelling with waves
The wind reproaching the centuries
The calm of the silence of the paths
Dormant in the semantics of dead perspectives
Step by step
Like the skin of the sky which feels the memory
Of what is no longer there
Dripping onto the earth shadows
Which resemble the affair of traces
Of an existence which is wedded
To the advent of ruins

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Scum Gentry

Nice to see the return of the Scum Gentry, punk lit is a rare genre of literature to see these days, particularly in conventional old Ireland. Ross Breslin is back at the helm, Ross and I go back to the site's inception over five or so years ago now.

It was nice to see one of my old Rathmines poems surfacing on the newly vamped site. I must have wrote this poem over 18 or so years ago, when I was working on The Dark Pool. Although it never managed to fit into that collection, for some reason. It ended up on The Muse is a Dominatrix, also published by Walter Ruhlmann for mgv2>publishing, which he runs over in France.

It's early days for the Gents yet, but do dig in and explore around. Submit some of your wild ones, if you dare!

This poem was my comment on the paedophile scandal which rocked the nation, and perhaps my most inspired anti-clerical piece.

Bon Lecture!

Monday, April 22, 2019

No Fool's Day

No one was more surprised than I when new poems started to come. You would think I would know better, at this stage, after so many years at it. But no. You tell yourself that that is enough of that lark, foolishly believing that you are done with it, and lo and behold poems start pouring out from between your thumb and forefinger, once again.

I will be posting the odd one here, and here it shall remain, beginning with the piece below.

The title of the new collection is Say Goodbye to the Blackhills. It has been obsessing me now for quite some time. I think I had a poem published with the same title, sometime last year! I shall try to find it. But, in the meantime here is a short poem written this morning.

No Fool's Day

Talk of war fills the air.
Before you, two wood pigeon
Frolic on the upper-most branches
Of a Sycamore tree.

The scene is idyllic, they could be
Straight out of a framed tableaux
Gracing the walls of some country
Manor in Fontainebleau, or the Forbidden

Palace. Although it is almost May
The temperature is only eleven degrees.
The jet streams are circulating the artic
Via the sea currents. There is nowhere to hide.

Poem cycle from Datura - poems taken from Merrion Square

I haven't posted anything in a while. So, here is the latest publication from my old partner in crime the irrepressible Walter Ruhlmann. It is really a wonderful resource Datura, full of poems in French and English. Walter is to be commended, as he is one of a handful of people out there promoting bilingual publications. Very happy to be teamed up with him again, here.

Just a short note on the texts.

You will find a sonnet by Ronsard, coming from Les Amours. I was really struck by some of Ronsard's poetry, coming as it does from the 16th century. And lo and behold you can see the origins of Baudelaire. That was a really beautiful discovery for me to make. So, I transversed one, see inside.

The cycle of poems that are published here are all taken from my last full length collection of poems called Merrion Square. I have been working in the area for the past year and a half, and I naturally started writing poems on the commute to and from work.

Just as Baudelaire became the central figure of Henry Street Arcade, see Flare 8, Oscar Wilde became the inspiration behind Merrion Square.

Bon lecture!